Friday, July 24, 2015

Traces Of A Life

People's lives tend to be put in brackets of birth date to death date.  Inside those brackets we list basic facts like parents, spouses, kids, employment, and other key achievements or events.  But a life is made up of much more than that and I've been going through the traces of those other things in my mom's life.

There's so much I could write about but there are things my mom wouldn't want on the blog, so I'll just do a couple of examples.

The deer and the squirrel sat on my mom's night stand when I was a little kid and probably longer.  I don't know when they got put away.  I'd forgotten all about them until I found them wrapped up in the back of a drawer.  They're small.  The squirrel could sit on a quarter.  But they were part of our life together, a connection we had over these little animals. 

Another little piece is this temporary pass that was in my step-father's belongings.  He was a good friend of both my parents (and my father continued to have good relations with my mom and step-father after they divorced).  I'm not sure what meaning this particular pass had.  But it's interesting as a connection to the man and to a bit of documentation of history. 

Below is the back of the pass.

Here's part of Thailand Peace Corps Group 19's picture when we got to Thailand and just before we headed off to our assignments in 1967.  My mom wasn't particularly excited to see me off to Asia then, but she never let on until we talked about it much later. 

This is a shot from near the water at Venice beach the other evening.  We finally were able to get some time together, just sitting on the beach enjoying the surf.  There were more dolphins out there.  My mom and I also had a beach bond much of which developed at Venice beach.  She was still using her boogie board in her 70s.  And there are a couple still in the garage. 

And here's a picture she had in her room of my brother Glen, who died in a work accident at age 23.  That had a huge impact on my mom, but she kept working and helping others. but went to the cemetery every week to give him new flowers.  It's actually a picture I took and developed, including burning in the picture of him surfing in the background.  That was before photoshop when you could doctor pictures in the darkroom. 

There's also wedding pictures of my mom an dad, her wedding ring, and thousands of other little things. 


  1. So sorry about your mum. Your post reminded me of holding my late mother's things tenderly. She imbued objects with her essence, I am sure, so it's hard to know what to do with these treasures. It's part of the grieving process to acknowledge this and be grateful for these things. Put aside time a specific time every day to do this (thinking about he, really grieving) and it will make the administration part of your day easier.

    If she was like you, she must have been a wonderful person.

  2. Thank you, Barbara, for stepping in with a reply. I know many readers here must wonder if they can reply in a way meaningful in this conversation. Of course we can. You have.

    I would add that my own mother spent years making the decision about life's clutter for us -- she got rid of much of her life's collected treasures. I found her one day, thinking of throwing out years of my father's kodachrome slides after he had died. She didn't want to 'trouble' us with them.

    My oldest brother has them now through a bit of family drama and won't share them with his brothers. Maybe she sensed something, as it hurts times not having access to those slides, so many good memories. My father was quite a good photographer as he had an artist's eye for composition. I've been told to let it be...

    My point in all of us is to say we can grieve when holding the things that are memory-rich and we can grieve not holding them as well. My mother chose to 'save' her children (from what I can guess is Steve's process). But I also know, to the last breath of her life, she kept a very private person, and it was her need not to trouble us with memories that I wish we had been given the choice to remember.

    Gotta love your parents. I know mine did their best. And Steve, sorry to take my comments into a discussion about you as if you weren't here to read it. But you are here so I can say, claim the feelings you experience; they're what are given you of her, your brother, father, and what is precious, more than any object you may hold.



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